World-first software predicts geo-disasters to save lives

It's the first of its kind model and it can suggest countermeasures for dealing with natural disasters.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of the after effects of a natural disaster.jpg
Representational image of the after effects of a natural disaster.


Global warming is causing more and more natural disasters which often lead to devastating consequences including loss of life. These take the shape of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, droughts, tsunamis, cyclones, landslides, avalanches, earthquakes and forest fires.

Now, civil engineers at Monash University have conceived of a first-of-its kind  software called GeoXPM that can not only predict where a geo-disaster might occur but also assess the event’s impact on its surrounding environment in order to mitigate its consequences. This is because the model can make suggestions of next steps to take to avoid dire loss of life and save as much property as possible.

This is according to a press release from the institution published on Thursday.

World's first fully functional software model of its kind

“This is the world’s first, fully functional continuum particle-based software to model and predict both the onset and post-failure responses of geomaterials and geo-structures across several scales - including rock, soil, water and complex mixtures of these - should natural features such as slopes and hillsides destabilize or artificial structures fail,” said the statement.

The work saw a collaboration of national and international teams of experts to engineer this unique computing solution capable of foreseeing climate-related events and their after-effects long before they even occur.

“Modelling worst-case scenarios and understanding them in detail allows us to design counter-measures that can minimize loss of life and damage,” explained associate professor Ha Bui from the Department of Civil Engineering and an ARC Future Fellow and founder of the Monash Computational Geomechanics (MCG) laboratory.

The tool can suggest countermeasures to avoid the worst impacts of geo-disasters and save lives. An example of this would be in the case of a dam overflow. The software would indicate buffers that could divert the water away from populated areas and vital infrastructure, leading it to a safe location where no harm to human life can take place while also saving human habitats.

Complex geo-environmental conditions

“GeoXPM can predict behavior and failure under complex geo-environmental conditions, including the flow of granular materials with complex behavior of soil-fluid mixtures, soil-structure interactions and even fracture and fragmentations of rock and concrete.” added Bui.

The researchers provide a visual example of the tool that recreates the path of debris following the Bingham copper mine collapse, an important natural disaster.

The tool comes at a crucial time as global warming has been responsible for mudslides, landslides and other debris flows that cause hundreds of deaths each year. The planet has also witnessed an increase in storms, floods, drought and wildfires that can disturb human habitats and cause untold damage, leaving resources companies liable for billions of dollars in compensation.

The software model can thus be used by insurance firms as well as local authorities to avoid the worst kind of damages and to save human lives. As climate change seems to increasingly take its toll despite best attempts to thwart it, these types of tools may mean the difference between life or death. It’s innovations such as these that may allow humanity to face the worst of global warming without increasing death tolls and habitat annihilation.